Celebrating Indigenous National Cinemas and Narrative Sovereignty through the Creation of Kin Theory, an Indigenous Media Makers Database

Michelle Y. Hurtubise


Indigenous peoples have been misrepresented and underrepresented in media since the dawn of cinema, but they have never stopped telling their own stories and enacting agency. It is past time to recognize them on their own terms. To facilitate that, academics, activists, and industry partners can fund, hire, teach, and share more Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) led projects. The uniqueness of 2020 with COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and human rights movements, and the move online by many academics and organizations have deepened conversations about systemic inequities, such as those in media industries. To address the often-heard film industry excuse, “I don’t know anyone of color to hire,” the Nia Tero Foundation has created Kin Theory, an Indigenous media makers database, that is having a dynamic, year-long launch in 2021.

Nia Tero is a global nonprofit that uplifts Indigenous peoples in their land stewardship through policy and storytelling. Kin Theory is being developed to be global in scope, celebrating the multiplicity of Indigenous national cinemas and the power of narrative sovereignty. This paper demonstrates ways in which Kin Theory is striving to Indigenize the film industry through collaborations, coalition building, and co-liberation joy. The projected outcome of this study is to highlight how Kin Theory has the potential to increase access to Indigenous media makers, strengthens relationships, makes media works more visible, and increases support for BIPOC-led projects. This paper discusses the impacts of media misrepresentations and erasure, the foundations of Kin Theory, and introduces the potential for Indigenous national cinemas and narrative sovereignty. By reporting on the launch of Kin Theory at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, strategies for Indigenizing the film industry are also discussed. Throughout it is argued that decolonization is not a salvage project, it is an act of creation, and diverse industry leaders are offering new systems that support this thriving revitalization.


Indigenous media, BIPOC databases, narrative sovereignty, Indigenous national cinemas, decolonization, Indigenization, film festivals

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/nh.2021.6.160-174
Data publikacji: 2021-10-10 16:24:52
Data złożenia artykułu: 2021-04-26 04:24:16


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